When you think of the famous old dark blues you probably think of an AFL club with a record 16 premierships, a proud fan base and a justifiably arrogant playing group.
But the Blues of 2012 paint a completely different picture.
Carlton started the season off perfectly with three big wins, the most significant coming in round three when they dispatched of premiership hopeful Collingwood.
But after that things went wrong in a big way and it all started in round four.
Carlton went into their game against Essendon with a renewed sense of confidence, the media touting them as premiership favourites.
They came out of that game bruised physically and mentally having been beaten by a comprehensive 30 points after losing key players Jeremy Laidler and Andrew Carrazzo to significant injuries.
After that things just got worse.
The Blues managed unconvincing wins against Fremantle and Greater Western Sydney and lost to St. Kilda and Adelaide.
Carlton is a team with plenty of high draft pick players and greats of the game who have had the time to develop as a playing group and as individuals.
Their premiership window should be wide open at this point after playing in finals in the past few years, finally winning a final last year.
So what’s gone wrong?
Well the first of the ‘blues’ that Carlton have in 2012 is injury blues.
Carlton have lost key tagger Andrew Carrazzo, and defenders Jeremy Laidler and Chris Yarran.
In those three players absence Carlton lack the ability to reduce an opposition player’s influence on the game, extra structure in the back line and their all important run off half back.
Yarran returned to the field against the Crows but the Blues lost elite midfielder Marc Murphy for at least eight weeks and defender Nick Duigan for the short term.
The loss of Duigan adds to the Blues structural worries but more significantly the absence of Murphy means that teams can give Carlton captain Chris Judd the hard tag significantly reducing Carlton’s midfield influence.
Carlton’s next big issue is structural.
In round four Essendon showed the footy world that increasing pressure around stoppages and increasing congestion negates Carlton’s free flowing running game.
This is something that the Blues have not adjusted to well with St Kilda following the same plan and beating them and Adelaide crushing them in a similar manner.
Carlton lost the clearance count in each of those defeats, despite being competitive in hit outs, but more significantly they also lost the clearance stat against newcomers GWS.
This high pressure, congested football makes Carlton’s midfield struggle and puts enormous pressure on their backline which eventually caves to the increasing opposition inside 50s.
Not only this, but when Carlton’s running game is broken down they’re hapless in attack. Without that run into the 50 Carlton have to launch the ball high inside exposing their key structural absence of a tall forward.
Bret Thornton, Shaun Hampson and Jarrad Waite have all been tried in this role but none are really key forward options.
If Carlton really is a premiership chance they need to overcome these difficulties and come into the next few weeks stronger and refocused.
Injuries are terrible and sometimes unavoidable but the best teams can cover their losses.
Hawthorn had a spate of injuries last year and a range of their younger players stood up to revive their season.
This year Collingwood have lost Luke Ball and now Dane Swan but Sharrod Wellingham and Steele Sidebottom were among those who have found another level in their game for the Pies.
Mitch Robinson, Kane Lucas, Robert Warnock, Brock Mclean, Dennis Armfield and Andrew Collins are all among those at Carlton who could find another level to cover their team’s losses.
Carlton also needs to restructure their game plan.
The Blues currently has no feasible plan B and seemingly enter every game with the same plans and structures, regardless of the opposition.
If a free flowing, running game isn’t working because of opposition pressure then either find a way around it or implement a new game plan that can counter that pressure.
Sure, they won against Melbournem but Port Adelaide will prove another test for their structures and players against weaker opposition.
Because after that they face Geelong, West Coast, Hawthorn and Collingwood, all teams they will lose to if they fail to remedy their form of the past month.
Carlton can live up to their name and be the famous old dark Blues but they won’t do it standing still.
Footy is a fast game and it has changed for Carlton and their opposition.
For the Blues it’s time to adapt or they can forget season 2012.